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Julia Bishop’s last-second free throw left lifts No. 23 Mercy past Divine Child in CHSL tournament semifinals

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 19, 2020, 10:39 pm

NOVI — When Farmington Hills Mercy’s Julia Bishop caught the ball in stride, and went flying downcourt for a potential game-winning layup, when she went to check how much time she had, there was just one problem.

The scoreboard wasn’t where she expected it to be.

Rather than on the wall behind the backboard, the scoreboard for Novi Detroit Catholic Central’s Bernie Holowicki Court is in the corner of the gymnasium.

No matter.

The junior adjusted, counted down the seconds in her head as she dribbled, and drew a foul with 0.9 seconds remaining in Wednesday’s Catholic League Bishop Division tournament semifinal against Dearborn Divine Child, hitting one of two resulting free throws to give the Marlins a 60-59 win that sends them on to the finals Saturday.

“I looked up, and I had to move to the right (to see the clock). I was like ‘Ooooh.’ I was a little worried about that. As soon as I caught the ball, I had to take a quick glance, and still be able to maintain the ball with that much pressure,” Bishop admitted. 

“I had a rough estimate. I was trying to get as close to zero as possible, but (leave) enough to draw the foul. … I’m definitely a contact-type player. I’d definitely go for free throws over a last-second layup, any day.”

The championship game, set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at University of Detroit-Mercy’s Calihan Hall, will pit the No. 23-ranked Marlins (16-2) against the No. 24 Mustangs (15-3) of Birmingham Marian. Marian has won the last two CHSL titles, and eight of the last 12. 

Mercy has won three of the other four in that span. 

“Playing a team three times, that’s hard enough, let alone being the third time in that exact situation,” Bishop said. “I think it was more of a mental game than a physical game, so I think it was great to see us push through take this home finally.”

Having beaten the Falcons (10-8) at home by 30, and on the road by seven, Mercy coach Gary Morris knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get the season sweep.

And it wasn’t.

“Trying to beat a good team for the third time is really hard. Especially since that second time we beat them, they had a 14-point lead at the half, and I’m sure they felt like they let that one get away, and they were thinking ‘We’re going to pay them back tonight,’” Morris said. “Just real proud of our kids. It was a game of runs, as basketball typically is.”

Using 18 points from freshman Maya White, and nine more from sophomore Sophie Dugas, Mercy led 20-18 after one quarter, 32-28 at the half and 45-40 headed to the fourth quarter.

But Divine Child had its own freshman source of scoring, getting 28 points from Kennedy Blair, to go with 13 from sophomore Ashley Hill and 10 from Molly Soraghan.  

Blair scored 13 points in the fourth quarter alone. The freshman hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 47-47 with 5:46 left, split a pair at the free-throw line with 1:32 left to make it a one-point deficit for the Falcons, and then recorded the rare four-point play — fouled in the act of shooting (and hitting) a 3-pointer, adding the bonus — with 52.5 seconds left to give Divine Child a 59-58 lead. 

“What can you say about Kennedy Blair? Wow,” Morris marveled. “It almost didn’t matter — as long as she had a glance at the basket, it was going in.”

Maddie Kenney split two free throws for Mercy with 35.7 left, tying it up at 59-59, setting up Bishop’s game-ending heroics.

The junior got the long lead pass at mid-court, looked up at the scoreboard, then drove the lane to draw the foul. 

“I think as she got into the open floor (she looked), and we were yelling just to take it. There was enough time to take it,” Morris said of Bishop, who finished with 15 points. “If we were going to have anybody at the line at the very end, that’s who we’d want. We just decided after she hit the first to intentionally miss the second. So that worked out.”

The Falcons corralled the rebound, but couldn’t connect on a full-court heave at the buzzer.